TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Texas
A&M capped its first SEC weekend road swing with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-20
victory over Alabama this afternoon at historic Foster Auditorium.
The Aggies, playing in Tuscaloosa for the first time in program
history, improved to 12-2 overall and 4-1 in SEC play after handing Alabama
(13-5, 2-4 SEC) its first sweep of the season.
"We are really excited to get another SEC win in an unfamiliar
place," A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. "(The game) was relatively slow on
our side, and it didn't really resemble a lot of the things that we have been
trying to work on. Part of that was frustrating, but at the same time we had
some players really come through and do a great job of leading with intensity
and energy. In the end our numbers looked okay and we got the win, so we are
really excited about that."
Alabama used a 3-0 run to take a 6-5 lead in the opening
set, but A&M immediately retook the lead, countering with a 4-0 surge which
included back-to-back back-row kills by 6-4 junior opposite Alisia Kastmo. Alabama
managed to tie the score four times throughout the remainder of the set but was
unable to regain the lead. The Crimson Tide evened the score for the final time
at 16-16 before kills by Kastmo and junior setter Allie Sawatzky, as well as
consecutive aces by junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds, gave the Aggies a
Alabama mounted a late rally, scoring three unanswered
points to get within 22-21 when Kastmo put down her seventh kill of the stanza
and senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger followed with an ace to put the Aggies
at set point. Alabama notched a kill before Aggie freshman Angela Lowak
plastered a kill down the line to clinch the 25-22 win.
Although Alabama hit -.023 in the second set, the Tide
stayed within striking distance as A&M was held to a .136 hitting
efficiency. Alabama held its only lead of the frame at 3-2 before Lowak had
consecutive kills to give the Aggies the advantage. A&M later held a narrow
17-16 lead, but an Alabama attack sailed long and A&M got kills from Mellinger
and senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly to give the Aggies a 20-16 lead.
Alabama twice got within two points, the last time at 22-20 before A&M
junior setter Mariah Agre, who had come off the bench late in the set, got a
kill to put A&M up, 23-20. Alabama hit out on each of the next two plays to
close out the 25-20 A&M win, giving the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match.
A&M jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third set, and other
than a 9-9 tie, the Aggies held the lead from start to finish. Leading 15-13,
A&M recorded back-to-back blocks with Minnerly, Lowak, Kastmo and senior
middle blocker Lindsey Miller all getting in on the action. Lowak then got a
kill to widen the gap to 18-13.
A&M continued to hold its five-point margin at 19-14
when it hit a rough stretch that led to four consecutive points for Alabama. After
an A&M serve went long and an attack went into the net, the Aggies set up
Alabama for a kill with an errant pass over the net. Another A&M attack
error put Alabama within 19-18, forcing Corbelli to take a timeout.
Miller got a kill on the slide attack coming out of the
timeout, marking the start of a 4-0 run by the Aggies. Alabama was whistled for
a ball handling error on the ensuing play, and then Sawatzky and Miller blocked
an Alabama attack. Reynolds capped the run with her career-high fourth service
ace of the match to put the Maroon and White ahead, 23-18.
The teams exchanged kills, with Miller putting down her
ninth kill of the contest to put the Aggies at match point. Alabama staved off
one match point with a kill but then unceremoniously served long to end the
Kastmo and Miller led A&M with nine kills apiece and
Sawatzky dished out 35 assists as A&M outhit Alabama, .202 to .073.
A&M had three players reach double figures in digs, led
by senior libero Megan Pendergast's 15. Mellinger had 14 digs to give her 1,266
for her career, catapulting her from ninth to sixth in the A&M career
records. Reynolds finished with 11 digs.
Lowak, who as of late has been coming in for Reynolds on the
front row, finished with career highs of six kills, three blocks -- including
two solo blocks - and 8.5 points.
Kayla Fitterer led the Tide with 11 kills.
A&M returns home next weekend for a pair of televised
SEC matches. The Aggies host South Carolina Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Reed Arena
and return to Reed for a contest against Mississippi State on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Both matches will be televised live by SportsSouth.